Hivos International

Hivos has a long history of working on issues concerning food, agriculture and biodiversity. Research has and continues to underpin many of our projects in the field, and contributes to broader debates on sustainable food. In our view, citizens should be centre-stage in a transition towards sustainable and inclusive food production and consumption. Signs of the required transformation are emerging worldwide, luckily. In local communities, small enterprises are launching sustainable food products. How do those frontrunners opt for change? How do their efforts effect soil fertility and agricultural biodiversity? In addition to the environmental impact of sustainable food production, this dossier also includes publications and knowledge articles on decent wages for farmers, gender inclusiveness and leadership in transitions towards sustainable food.   

Small Producer Agency in a Globalised Market 

Agriculture is still a small-farm story: half a billion farmers, working on plots of less than two hectares, produce a significant proportion of the world’s food. What are the strategies and constraints of small-scale producers in an era of rapid changes in rural areas ushered in by globalisation, urbanisation and modernisation? Hivos partnered with the research institute IIED (UK) for the Small Producer Agency in a Globalised Market Knowledge Programme (2009 - 2013) examining the farmers’ real life strategies; how small-scale farmers exercise agency in globalised markets; how they analyse their options; how they manage risks and make decisions. In essence, we looked how the poor are making markets work for them. Over the years, the Knowledge Programme learnings suggests we should not continue to expect multiple wins — on poverty reduction, food security, security of supply, ecosystem services and rural development — from the single-minded approach of including farmers and their organisations in value chains and ‘empowering’ them in markets as beneficiaries of external initiatives. To get the future right for the majority of small-scale producers who cannot highly diverse set of readily participate in modern value chains, or for the many youth with aspirations out of farming, we must recognise many other layers of the picture.

Working with Millions of Farmers Worldwide

The research done in the Agrobiodiversity @ Knowledged programme produced an extensive amount of knowledge. Oxfam Novib and Hivos initiated this programme in 2011 after a partnership of over eight years managing the Biodiversity Fund. At the heart of the programme is a global community of organisations, working with millions of farmers worldwide, generating an impressive amount of knowledge and experience. They produced, shared and tested evidence and insights on how the much-needed transformation towards resilience and sustainable production could be accelerated. In this dossier, you will find publications on changes in livestock management, food for thought on how change happens, case studies highlighting agroecology successes in Africa and studies on nutritional values of rice varieties. Topics that have gained momentum in the agricultural biodiversity community and are expected to further influence debates in the public domain are ‘open source seed systems’, ‘community resilience assessment’ and public tools for policy transformation such as data carriers (Seed Map).

Coffee as a Leading Indicator

Another volume of research contains Hivos’ long-standing work in the coffee sector. Coffee is regarded as a lead indicator for sustainable commodity crops; it often sets the pace and others follow. Together with partner organisations, we published the Coffee Barometer, which discusses developments in the coffee market, focusing on sustainability standards and certification.

For these and more insights about sustainable food production and consumption, do browse through this dossier! 

Related Publications

International Institute for Environment and Developmen (IIED) and Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries (Hivos) launched a two-year strategic partnership to provide research-based policy advice to improve sustainable food systems and access to...

Biodiversity is the cornerstone of our very existence. Also in agricultural systems, biodiversity plays an important role in providing important goods and services to farmers, for example in crop pollination and maintenance of soil...

Guatemala Cedeco

In order to learn from previous experiences, Hivos is examining its role(s) and performance in various multi-actor initiatives. A multi-actor initiative is undertaken by several actors with complementary strengths, with the aim of creating joint...

Related Articles


"You are aware that The Global Learning Network of Hivos–IIED knowledge programme on ‘Small producers’ agency in globalised markets’ held its third and last meeting in Bandung between 13-17 February. It was hosted and organized by Dr. Ronnie S. Natawidjaja, Chairman, Master of Agricultural Economics Program Faculty of Agriculture Padjadjaran University (UNPAD). 16 learning network members from Africa, Latin America and Asia came together to share their insights, challenge each other and test the assumptions made on issues that foster or impede the agency of small producers in the changing realities around them.

Two research papers have been published in the Knowledge Programme Small Producer Agency in a Globalised Market.

The first paper, "Innovating to compete: Smallholder farmers' agency and markets in East Africa", describes how and where small-scale farmers are trading, how  their markets...

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An Iranian woman walks on Enghelab-e-Eslami (Islamic Revolution) St. in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015.

Since the outbreak of the revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in 2011, the region is undergoing tectonic shifts. The pace, quality and quantity of political and social changes are unprecedented.